How to determine what essential oils are best
Many essential oils can be used in aromatherapy. There are at least 90 different essential oils and absolutes and at least 15 carrier oils commonly used in aromatherapy. With so many different oils to choose from, it is no wonder that most people have difficulty understanding what oils may be best for their specific desired affect. It is very important to study the different types of oils to determine which one will be the best one for you to use, should you decide to use aromatherapy.
Undiluted essential oils and similar products suitable for aromatherapy can usually be distinguished from other similar products since, in most cases, the undiluted oils are of a therapeutic grade. This of course is only a good standard to go on if you live in a country that regulates the industry. In the United States, the content of components of oils is standardized to the use of FCC labeling. FCC labeling refers to the food chemical codex and it is a criteria established by the FCC determines the specified amounts of a specific aroma and creating chemical must naturally occur in the oil.
This type of regulation is used to help regulate the industry so that aromatherapy retains at least some sense of standards. Not only does the FCC help to regulate aromatherapy, it also helps to determine what types of oils and essential plant material are best suited for certain therapies. In addition, this regulation determines how much of specific oil should be used for a specific purpose, eliminating the worry of using too much of any particular oil. There is no law however, that prevents a manufacturer from adding a synthetic chemical in order to meet any criteria established by the FCC for any specific oil.
The best method, however, for determining if an essential oil is going to be of much use is simply an educated nose. Many people specifically skilled in aromatherapy can often determine if a scent is synthetic or natural. This skill is something that is believed anyone can obtain, as long as he or she is willing to put in the time and effort. It is important that you should try to avoid adulterated oils and materials for your aromatherapy whenever possible.
No matter what therapy, sense, or smell you end up choosing, it is important that you remain close to your natural preference. In many cases, if you like the way that an oil smells or makes you feel, more than likely you will enjoy using it. If you do not enjoy the smell and enjoying using it as a form of therapy, it will do you no good, regardless of what that specific oil or scent is supposed to do or how it
should benefit you. If you are not enjoying the scent of a specific essential oil, this is your body's way of telling you to keep looking.
How to test an essential oil
When you are out sampling various different types of essential oils for your aromatherapy, it is very important that you sample properly. To sample an oil, simply open the bottle approximately 3 to 4 inches directly below your nose. Slowly sway the bottle from right to left as you gently inhale. It is important that you do not inhale too deeply or use the bottle as an inhaler. Breathing the aroma more deeply will not increase the potency and could very well be dangerous as specific oils can have overpowering aromas.
Through this sampling, you should be able to determine what oils feel most natural to you as well as what oils bring about specific feelings within you. As I mentioned before, many times people associate the smell of cinnamon with the holiday season and the same can be said for the scent of pine trees and campfires. While there is certainly no essential oil for campfires, there is for pine trees and for just about any other season or experience that you would like to conjure up.
What are essential oils?
An essential oil is usually a liquid that has been derived from a plant and distilled. This distilling process usually involves water from a stream or slow-moving river combined with the leaves, flowers, stems, bark and other parts of the plant that is used for making this particular oil. Essential oils do not actually feel oily at all, contrary to the use of the word. Most of essential oils are clear or are a very clear orange or amber color. Essential oils are believed to contain the true essence of the plant or tree from which they were obtained. Due to the high concentration that the essential oils maintain, they are often sold in very small bottles that can last a long time.
Essential oils, while they do represent scents, are not the same or even similar to fragrances or perfumes. Essential oils are always derived from real plants, while the vast majority of perfume or fragrance oils are artificially created or at the very least contain artificial substances and often offer little or no therapeutic value. Since the use of the word aromatherapy is not yet regulated by the United States government, many companies will offer fragrance oils as aromatherapy therapeutic oils even though they are not the same. This is an unfortunate situation as many times these fragrant oils have little or no natural ingredients. It is important to understand that if an aromatherapy product contains any type of synthetic or perfume oil, it is not a true aromatherapy product, simply someone trying to sell a lesser product as a greater one.
The aroma and chemical composition of therapeutic essential oils is the key. This makes aroma and chemical composition can provide valuable physical therapeutic benefits as well as psychological stress relief. The majority of people who practice with therapeutic oils do so through methods including application of diluted oil to the skin and through inhalation.
The major essential oils
There are many different types of essential oils and all of them have specific properties. You may not even realize it, but many of these oils are used in their other forms while cooking! For example, some of the following essential oils are ones you would find in everyday household cooking in a different format (such as leaves or ground powder):
Basil is often used in cooking for various purposes because of its unique flavor. Its aromatic properties are sweet, herbaceous, and licorice like. While Basil is most often used in cooking, it can be used to help treat bronchitis, colds, coughs, exhaustion, flatulence, flu, gout, insect bites, insect repellent, muscle aches, rheumatism, and sinusitis. However, it is suggested that Basil only be used sparingly and with caution. Too much Basil may be carcinogenic because it contains methyl chavicol. It is suggested that you do not use basil if you have liver problems and you should not use basil during pregnancy.
Ginger, also often used in cooking, is another aromatherapy essential oil. It has a warm, spicy, earthy, and woodsy smell. Ginger is best used to treat aching muscles, arthritis, nausea, and poor circulation. However, you should not use this if you will be exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period of time as it can create sun poisoning.
Lemon is a very common fruit that most people are familiar with. Its aroma is very similar to the scent of lemon rinds except richer and more concentrated. It can be used to treat athlete’s foot, chilblains, colds, corns, dull skin, flu, oily skin, spots, varicose veins, and warts. Similar to Ginger, it is suggested that lemon not be used if you are going to be exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period of time.
Parsley is also often used in cooking. It has a very woodsy aroma that can be quite appealing. It is often used to treat amenorrhea, arthritis, cellulites, cystitis, frigidity, griping pains, indigestion, rheumatism, and toxic build-up. However, this particular essential oil can sometimes be
dangerous. It tends to be toxic to the liver and can induce abortions. It should be used in each with extreme caution particularly around pregnant women.
Peppermint is an extremely common smell that you are probably very familiar with. It is minty and is very reminiscent of spearmint only more concentrated and fragrant. This scent will often remind people of the Christmas holiday. It is an excellent treatment for asthma, colic, exhaustion, fever, flatulence, headache, nausea, scabies, sinusitis, and vertigo. It can be somewhat toxic to the nerves and should be avoided in the case of someone afflicted with epilepsy or fever. Peppermint may be taken orally but only under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner.
Thyme is frequently used in cooking. It has a fresh but medicinal type smell. Thyme is often used to treat arthritis, colds, cuts, dermatitis, flu, insect bites, laryngitis, lice, muscle aches, oily skin, poor circulation, scabies, and sore throats. People with hypertension should not use thyme. It can also cause dermal irritation or can be a strong mucous membrane irritant.
Particularly interesting is the use of Rose in aromatherapy. All of us are accustomed to roses being used as a gift. However, roses are also used for aromatherapy. They have a floral and sweet sense. Rose, in its essential oil form, is often used to treat depression, eczema, frigidity, mature skin, menopause, and stress. When you think of giving roses to someone you care about, remember that just the scent of roses can help to alleviate depression and stress. No wonder women like them so much.
Most everyone is very familiar with nutmeg. It has a wonderful smell that is rich, spicy, sweet, and woodsy. The essential oil is very similar to that of the cooking spice, only richer and more fragrant. It is commonly used to treat arthritis, constipation, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, neuralgia, poor circulation, rheumatism, and slow digestion.
Marjoram is also a cooking spice, only one that is not used as frequently as others mentioned here. In its aromatherapy version, it's sweet and woodsy smell can be very appealing. It has the capacity to deal with a wide number of potential problems while still smelling nice. It is used to treat aching muscles, amenorrhea, bronchitis, chilblains,
colic, coughing, excessive sex drive, flatulence, hypertension, muscle cramps, neuralgia, rheumatism, sprains, strains, stress, and ticks. However, pregnant women should avoid using it, although there are no other precautions necessary.
Earlier, in the history of the use of aromatherapy, it was mentioned that the French chemist Gattefosse discovered aromatherapy through an accidental dosage of Lavender oil. What does Lavender really treat? It's fresh, sweet, floral, and slightly fruity scent is much enjoyed. It's possible uses are many and include acne, allergies, anxiety, asthma, athlete's foot, bruises, burns, chicken pox, colic, cuts, cystitis, depression, dermatitis, dysmenorrheal, earache, flatulence, headache, hypertension, insect bites, insect repellant, itching, labor pains, migraine, oily skin, rheumatism, scabies, scars, sores, sprains, strains, stress, stretch marks, vertigo, and whooping cough. Even with all its many treatments, there is no need for special precautions with this essential oil.
Essential Oil Safety
Like all treatments, medications, and therapies, it is very important that you exercise safety and caution when using essential oils. Remember that these are highly concentrated liquids, which can be harmful if they are not used as prescribed, or in an appropriate manner. However, do not let that scare you. Just as long as you exercise caution and stay informed, you should do just fine with aromatherapy.
While some safety guidelines should be followed, they can sometimes be broken under the guidance of a qualified and trained aromatherapy practitioner in the case of certain oils. When in doubt always consult your physician or a qualified and trained aromatherapy practitioner.
An important guideline to remember is an essential oil should never be used undiluted on the skin. While there may be exceptions to this precaution, you should never make that judgment on your own without careful consultation with an authority on the subject. Using the oil on the skin can cause skin irritation, rashes, severe sensitivity, and can be very toxic. Lavender and tea tree can be used on the skin but should only be done so on very rare occasions so that you do not incur the possibility of sensitivity.
Keep in mind that some oils may produce sensitivity or allergic reactions in some individuals. Like with almost all other things, some people are bound to be allergic to essential oils used in aromatherapy. In order to safeguard yourself and others against a potential allergic
reaction, always apply a very small amount of diluted essential oil (never undiluted) onto a small patch of skin. It can be helpful to do this on the inside of an elbow and then apply Band-Aid. Allow the oil to sit for at least 24 hours to see if there is any form of reaction. It does not matter if you think that you are not going to be allergic to any essential oil, you should always check first.
Some essential oils will also be problematic for people during pregnancy or for those with asthma, epilepsy, or other serious health conditions. Keep this in mind and look for precautions on that essential oil before using it with a person who has a potential health issue tin order to prevent complications.
Never take essential oils orally unless under specific directions from a physician or qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Most oils cannot be taken orally but a rare few can in specific regulated doses. These should only be prescribed by a physician or qualified aromatherapy practitioner.
Unlike most things in life, essential oils are always falling under the rule of less is more. Use only a small amount of essential oil, just enough to get the job done. Essential oils are highly concentrated and it is very easy to use too much.
Not everything that is an essential oil should be used for aromatherapy. Certain essential oils such as wormwood, pennyroyal, onion, camphor, horseradish, wintergreen, rue, bitter almond and sassafras should only be used under the direction of or by a qualified aromatherapy practitioner, if it is used at all
Keep in mind that essential oils are flammable! Always keep essential oils away from fire hazards and you should use extreme caution when the oils are near flames.
It should go without saying that you should never let children use essential oils without the presence of an adult who is versed in information about aromatherapy. However, we may neglect to remember to take this precaution by preventing children from being able to get into your essential oils store. Keep them somewhere safe and out of a child's reach.
There are oils that are considered hazardous and dangerous. However, just because oil is not listed here as dangerous does not mean that it is safe or does not have other side effects that you should be aware about. Just be careful and research your essential oils before using them.
Here is a list, in alphabetic order, of hazardous oils that you should avoid:
Ajowan (Trachyspermum copticum)
Almond, Bitter (Prunus dulcis var. amara)
Arnica (Arnica Montana)
Birch, Sweet (Betula lenta)
Boldo Leaf (Peumus boldus)
Broom, Spanish (Spartium junceum)
Calamus (Acorus calamus var. angustatus)
Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
Deertongue (Carphephorus odoratissimus)
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Jaborandi (Pilocarpus jaborandi)
Melilotus (Melilotus officinalis)
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
Mustard (Brassica nigra)
Onion (Allium cepa)
Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Wormseed (Chenopodium ambrosioides var. anthelminticum)
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
Again, while this list includes oils that are hazardous in general, this does not mean that there are no other hazardous oils or oils with possible side effects that could damage you, particularly if you have an existing health condition.